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One step at a time: North Wright County prepares for another season in the competitive Lake Conference

Head coach Cailyn Olesen talks about the team's season in the competitive Lake Conference that includes teams like Edina, Minnetonka and Wayzata, coaching at a co-op program and what next year might look like for the squad.

NWC

ST. MICHAEL, Minn. — The North Wright County Riverhawks wrapped up the 2021-2022 season with a 14-11-1 record and finished second in the competitive Lake Conference, only second to Edina who later went on to the state tournament.

North Wright County is a co-op team made up of players from both St. Michael-Albertville and Monticello high schools. Head coach Cailyn Olesen says that although these players know each other from their youth hockey days, the team still has unique challenges they face, such as the two schools starting and ending their school days at different times.

The Riverhawks were lead by senior Sydney Petersen who scored 22 goals and 18 assists for 40 points this year.

"She has a shot that is unreal, and is incredibly fast and strong," Olesen says. Petersen will be continuing her athletic career next year at Augsburg University where she will be playing both hockey and lacrosse.

Junior Lilly Gillespie was second in point scoring for the Riverhawks this year with 30.

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"She sees the ice so well," Olesen says. But unfortunately for the team, Gillespie just recently tore her ACL while playing lacrosse — but that doesn't mean she won't have a role on the team. "We're looking for her to be a leader, even if she can't skate."

A player that North Wright County is excited about is Dani Weiland, a freshman who had 12 goals and 10 assists this past season.

"She has grown immensely, you can just tell by her game and her confidence," Olesen says.

Olesen is excited to see what Weiland can bring into her third season on varsity.

Goaltender Jadyn Weiser will be returning for the Riverhawks next season, the junior posted a .926 save percentage and had six shutouts on the year. "She's been a huge rock for us ... saving a lot of goals that maybe should've gone in and keeping us in a lot of games that could've been a blowout," Olesen says.

The team is losing a large part of their defensive core this offseason who were a big reason for the teams success in general and also for the solid penalty kill unit as well. Olesen says she is confident though that there are plenty of players who are ready to step up and make an immediate impact on the ice next season.

"Each game we're going to take one step at a time ... we know we have a tough schedule but that's only going to make us better," Olesen says her expectations for upcoming season.

To hear more about North Wright County's season, Cailyn Olesen's coaching story, and more in-depth information on what players might make an impact next year, make sure to listen to the full podcast conversation or watch the interview below!

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Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies and was a part of the University Honors Program.
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